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I have been thinking a lot about a comment DF left the other day:

Everytime you write a review about a place in DC it further solidifies my belief that its one of the worst metro areas in the country to go out to eat.

This is not a post to attack DF’s viewpoint.  I think it is a fairly valid one and I can totally understand where he gets that impression.  I raked Bar Dupont over the coals last week, but I really think they had it coming.  I am not afraid to give a place the what what if they deserve it.  Also, I just think DC has a bad rep when it comes to food and it is hard to shake such things.  Comparing DC to NY or San Francisco just isn’t fair; they are completely different beasts. There is a lot of really good stuff going on here.

Thusly, I do feel it appropriate to expound on the inherent goodness of one of my favorite restaurants in DC, Proof.

I have written about Proof before, but largely their wine selection.  While wine is important, I feel it would be remiss to not mention the food.

Oh GOD, the food. I don’t think a trip to Proof would be complete without the charcuterie plate; every single bite is to be savored.  The duck confit, served at lunch, is crispy and decadent.  Served on a bed of Asian slaw, it is pretty over the top for a mid day meal, but I will allow it.  The pork confit at dinner is just as amazing.  The seasonal gnocchi never disappoints; it is light and fluffy, not heavy and leaden.  I have dined on moist, but never fatty, duck and perfectly seasoned scallops.  The cookie platter is a delight and the wine suggestions are helpful and you never feel like they are gouging you.  I have never had bad service; staff is attentive but not overbearing. I adore the sleek, sexy atmosphere.  It is chic, but not fussy.

I have a secret for you, too.  I have been keeping it for a while, acting extremely selfish.  Lean in…mmm, you smell good, kinda woodsy.

What was I saying?

Oh!  Right.  So, at the bar on weekdays, they have a lunch special…$12 for a glass of wine and a lunch entree.  Duck confit and a Malbec for $12?!  Come on kids, it really does not get much better than that.

Proof, to me, is pretty much the perfect restaurant.  Amazing food, great atmosphere, urban, hip without trying too hard, and most importantly, they care about their customers and want them to come back.

And now on to you…What are you looking for in a restaurant?  What do you think is lacking in DC’s food scene? Tell me where you love to eat here or across the country…


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I find that since I write this website people are often hesitant to cook for me.  Likewise, they fear recommending a favorite restaurant–or bringing me there–because I will tear it to shreds.  I can see where the concern comes from; I have spent a lot of time thinking about food, honing my palate and educating myself.  I get it, sure, but I always feel compelled to remind people that discovering my first Sonic was one of the best moments of my year so far. Just because I know what is in season, how a steak should be cooked, or what is in a bechamel sauce, that doesn’t mean I xcannot appreciate some awesome chili fries or your mom’s dirt cake…in fact, I love that kind of stuff.

I have contemplated this a lot since a visit to Bar Dupont last week with Restaurant Refugee. Now between the two of us, we are probably going to catch almost every mistake a place makes.  No establishment is perfect–there is always room for improvement–and I assure you, we will find it.  When writing about a restaurant or forming an opinion–a simple “yes” or “no”–I think very simply.  Is this a place where I feel comfortable telling people to spend their money? Has this place earned the cash of my friends and family?

Bar Dupont, you have earned nothing.  First, let me start on the positive note:  The mustard was awesome.  It had a kick of wasabi and was nice on the (frozen, precut) fries.  Also, the space is amazing.  It is sleek and sexy and the lighting is wonderful.  It would be a fantastic space for some post dinner drinks…

…if it didn’t suck so bad.  I mean, this place was egregious.  Abomidable.  It made for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night.

This is where I feel conflicted.  I am going to just straight up blast in this restaurant’s face.  Hope it has a hanky. Here we go:

  • The waitress could not list the beer on tap.
  • When we moved inside (it was cold out), it took about 15 minutes for our check to be picked up.
  • We watched one of the managers–of which there were far too many on duty–stick his hands in side wine glasses THREE TIMES as he was unloading the dishwasher.
  • We sat far too long at the bar without any attention.  Several different people took our orders and kept asking us what we needed…I am all for teamwork, but this was just disorganization.
  • The menu lacks explanation.  We went with the “turf” flat, which was a sampler of sorts, and it was horrible.  The mini chicken slider was so dry I could not even swallow it. I dubbed the lamb carpaccio (carpaccio is supposed to be raw meat, by the way), a “lunchable”. The short ribs, my beloved short ribs, were weirdly shredded and served on toast that was only actually toasted on one side, making everything kind of mushy.  The duck terrine was…gelatinous? Gooey? The sirloin salad was fine–nothing bad, nothing special, though it did need some salt.
  • We also ordered the burger to split, knowing you can test the salt of a place by it’s burger.  RR wanted it medium rare so that is what we asked for; it arrived medium well.  The aforementioned crappy fries were served with the delightful mustard, some generic catsup and a crappy aioli (which I assume was just some Hellman’s).
  • Oh, and the food?  It sat in the window for about three minutes–as several suits and bartenders milled past it.  We had to ask for our meals.  We saw the same thing happen with several other plates.  Restaurant rule number one: food goes from the kitchen to the table.  It never, ever takes a detour; this is unsanitary and the food gets cold.
  • The place was deafeningly loud.  We could barely hear each other  and there was nothing to absorb any of the sound.
  • We ordered a bottle of wine and it took forever for it to arrive.  They explained the reason it took so long was because the wine cellar was 4 stories down…and they didn’t have a key.  Are you kidding me? No key to your God damn wine cellar.  I felt like I was on Candid Camera.
  • So yeah…when the wine arrived…it was not the one we asked for.  It was the wrong year.
  • We were clearly not pleased.  We left with more than half of our food uneaten.  No one said a word or asked why we didn’t finish.

Am I a hyper critical asshole?  Perhaps.  But seriously, I could never, ever tell anyone to spend their money at a place that is lacking in every department.  Food, service, sanitation, atmosphere…all of it was terrible.  Biddy Mulligan’s, which formerly occupied the space, may have been nothing fancy but they had plenty of good beer on tap and some pretty decent bar food.  This was just a tragedy. Why would you want to spend your cash at a place that treats you like you are an idiot? There are far better places out there.

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On Charm

The beguiling Lisa was the lucky winner of my coffee syrup raffle a few weeks back.  I have to admit I was thrilled when I pulled her name; I will take any excuse I can to get this lady at a dinner table with me.  I really love her, her writing, and her outlook on life.  I kind of felt like I won.

After a few emails we settled on Posto; she had a hankering for some pasta.  I was excited to try a new place that has been on my list.

I started with some Prosecco by the glass, which was priced reasonably.  As I waited for Lisa I glanced around.  I liked the open, airy space and the sleek minimal furnishing. The floor to ceiling windows really open the place up, and I couldn’t help but think it would be a great spot for a date.

Our server didn’t rush us to order and was attentive without being overbearing.  There was nothing remarkable about him, but he was unobtrusive and efficient.  We started with some speck, proscuitto, and La Tur cheese (it is a kind of creamy and brie like cheese).  The cheese was great and the bread served with it was fresh and delicious.  I just wish there were more descriptions on the menu.  I know what speck is, but I second guessed myself.  Descriptions would have been helpful.

For entrees, Lisa went with the spaghetti with seafood.  While tasty, I found it a bit too “fishy”.  The taste of ocean aggressively attacked my palate; while it tasted good, it was strong.  I went with the tagliatelle with goat ragu and sunchokes.  The ragu was AMAZING; rich, flavorful and hearty.  I love sunchokes so the sauce pleased me immensely.  Sadly, I found my pasta a tad too al dente.  It needed to be boiled for maybe another 45 seconds.  Also, while I chose it, I was surprised to see a ragu on the menu in April.  Kind of heavy for the spring, you think?   I had the same reaction when one of the specials was a butternut ravioli; squash is way out of season.

Dessert was really great.  We got a rhubarb berry crisp with ice cream that was divine.  Lisa and I both love rhubarb so we may have been predisposed to like it, but that does not take away from the fact that it was hella good.

But there is one thing about this trip I can’t shake; I liked Posto a lot, I will most likely reccommend it to people looking for a decent Italian place, but I didn’t love it.  There were pros and cons to the place, but the same can be said about Next Door and I left really pleased and eager to try it again.  Posto? No such feelings. Some restaurants have a charm, a warmth…and I really just was not feeling it at Posto.  I don’t know how Posto can find its mojo–hell, I don’t even know what exactly it needs–but it needs something, just a little twinkle in it’s eye and hop in it’s step.  It was like a guy that is really good on paper–smart, funny, attentive, attractive–but you cannot bring yourself to like him.  It just isn’t there.

That being said, we are all looking for someone, something, to love and far be it from me to tell you what that is.  Stop by and see if it is your style.

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Bitch (?)

(Admin note:  Did you hear screams late last night and had no idea where they were coming from?  Well, it was me.  The domain went down for about 10 hours but I think I have it all fixed nice and pretty like. At least I hope I have it all ironed out or someone is going to have to pay…or at least get a very stern talking to.  If you have issues viewing the site or commenting today, please email me at culinarycouture (at) gmail (dot) com.)

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I kinda feel for Gillian Clark. She is one of the best female chef’s in the area and the woman has a reputation with a capital R.

Namely her rep is she is a huge bitch.

Now, I have never met the woman so I cannot speak to the affect of her bitchiness. I have heard stories, but you never know how much flair is added to them. I will say this: I am sure I would not even have to address her reputation if she wasn’t a woman. It is an old and worn out cliche, but assertive, driven women too often get this label slapped on them.dscn1129

I don’t care if Ms. Clark is a bitch or not, I just care that she is doing some fantastic cooking. Her food at the dearly departed Colorado Kitchen was divine and her new place in a hidden nook of Silver Spring, The General Store, shows the same promise.

In an interview, Clark said she envisioned her new, minimalistic place as a “good Cracker Barrel” and she largely succeeds. It is down home cooking, heavy on Southern Fare and light on atmosphere. The menu is populated with po’ boys, potpies, shrimp and grits and lots of pie. I had to try out her specialty; fried chicken.

Now, I would never consider myself a fried chicken aficionado–my field of expertise lies in burgers–but this stuff was amazing. Crispy and flavorful, it arrives at your table piping hot, straight from the fryer. It is done correctly so it isn’t greasy at all. And my collard greens? I can say without a shred of doubt they were the absolute best I have ever had. They were vinegary, studded with pork and spellbindingly addictive. I could eat a double order for dinner. I also loved that I could get a beer at this hole in the wall–I went with a Blue Moon–and the simple decor suits the place.

Some improvement is needed, though. We arrived at 6 pm on a Sunday night and by 6:30 they were out of chicken. The cornbread was a bit inconsistent; my pieces were burnt on the bottom and gummy while my friend’s was perfect. The mac and cheese was good, but certainly not great. Sadly, it was a bit cold, too. I also wish they would drop prices a bit; $17 for a meal consisting of three pieces of dark meat chicken (even though I do enjoy dark meat) is a tad steep. Lastly, it seems they could utilize the space a bit better; my friend Pepparazo correctly observed that they could most definitely fit more tables in the place.

Despite the need for some tweaks, I left really satisfied.  It is a little gem brimming with tasty food and a cute atmosphere.  Frankly, I don’t really care if Clark is a bitch or Mother Theresa, I just care that she can make some chicken and greens…and she sure can.

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Hook Haiku

Barton Seaver, why?

It seems Hook has lost it’s waysalt-packet

Without your guidance

———

Though I had not been

I went with very high hopes

I had heard much praise

——–

The decor was nice

The server was competent

And the wine plenty

——

The timing was off

Apps came before the vino

And bread after both

———

My chowder was great

I must admit that is true

As was my gnocchi

———

Yet both the gnocchi

And sadly my poor salmon

Was under seasoned

———

Why so hard to salt?

These are the basics here folks

How embarassing

——

The desert was yum

But it could not save the day

Learn timing and salt

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Despite my propensity to use the word y’all in every day conversation and my love of Jack Daniel’s, I am a Northern girl to my core. I drive like crap, I hate talking to strangers and give me enough to drink and I can barely fight my hideous RI accent. I haven’t been there in 9 years but I am a Rhody girlwafflehouse through and through. This is why it blew my mind when the crowd here revolted last year when they learned I’d never been to Waffle House. Sure, I have driven through the South but our family’s southern fare of choice was always Cracker Barrel (we like racism with our country apples, apparently). There are far worse since….such as the complete lack of a letter between Q and S in my native tongue.

During my visit to Atlanta, BettyJoan took it upon herself to right this deeply offensive wrong. She is doing the people’s work. I knew I would love the place as soon as the waitress standing in front of the building, covered in prison ink and smoking a cigarette, opened the door for us.

This woman turned out to be our waitress. Her name was Deb and she was missing multiple teeth. She was friendly, welcoming, and completely thrilled that I this was my virgin voyage to a Waffle House. Now this was a woman who has clearly towed a rocky path in life but she was totally awesome in that that woman who calls you “sweetheart” at the diner kind of way.  We don’t see people like this in DC.

And the food you ask?  Well, any breakfast sandwhich served on grilled Texas toast is ok in my book. It was slathered in butter and shamefully sinful, but hey it was vacation and believe me, I have paying the piper at the gym.  I got hashbrown, sweet delicious hash browns, “smothered” with onions and they were pretty damn perfect.  BettyJoan was kind enough to let me steal a few bites of her chocolate chip waffle and that was pretty delicious as well.  (Speaking of BettyJoan being kind, she is doing a triathlon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Have you made a donation? You should.  All the cool kids are.)

So finally, FINALLY, this Northern girl has tried a Waffle House.  All the wrongs in the Universe have been righted and I can sleep easy at night.

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I am fully aware I am about to get spanked. Hard. It is a fate I accept.

Ya know how I talked a big game about getting the double pass bypass burger at Vortex while I was in Atlanta? Anddscn1133

I was all pumped up for it, ready to eat this bacon, egg and cheese burger with grilled cheeses as buns? Well, I bitched out. I lost my nerve. And some of you may think it was because the prospect of eating all that fat smooshed in between two grilled cheeses was just too much for me to put my stomach through, that I came to my senses and realized just because you can use grilled cheese as a bun it doesn’t mean you should. Well, no, you are wrong. It was not at all about the overkill of those grilled cheeses, it was in fact about the presence of two eggs on the burger. I will eat damn near a whole pound of meat and cheese but that second egg was just too much and a girl has to stand for something or she will fall for anything.

I decided to go with the totally reasonable Single Coronary burger. It was rare meat topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and one egg atop a sesame bun. I always worry places like Vortex, which has been featured on many a travel show, are all hype and no substance, but I was not disappointed. The dscn1134meat was well seasoned and cooked perfectly. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and the egg on top of all that bacon and cheese was the perfect touch. I chose the tots as a side at bettyjoan’s urging and of course she was right. They were piping hot, wonderfully crispy and deliciously salty. The food was amazing, the company was great and the slightly bitchy but also kinda of sweet waitress made for an amazing night even if we did have to wait a painfully long time for a table.

It was delicious and everything I could have hoped for ad more.  Well, minus the grilled cheese bins and all that. And yes, I’m a pussy.  Please don’t hate me too much.

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